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Women leaders under fire as corruption scandals shake Uganda

Anita Among in office

Anita Among in office

There was a time when women were proud of their representation in parliament and government offices, but lately, the character of women in power is coming under scrutiny.

The news that the three Ugandan officials sanctioned by the UK for corruption are all women has been particularly shocking and unprecedented.

Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among, former minister for Karamoja Affairs Dr Maria Goretti Kitutu, and former minister of State for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu have received far-reaching sanctions from the UK government for their roles in corruption and the theft of iron sheets intended for some of Uganda’s poorest in Karamoja.

This development raises important questions: what do other Ugandan women think about the current female leaders in power? Is this still a case of women’s emancipation, or have women simply been emancipated to steal as ‘efficiently’ as their male counterparts?

The era of pioneering female leaders such as Miria Matembe, Cecilia Ogwal, Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, Winnie Byanyima, Winnie Kiiza, Salaamu Musumba, Victoria Ssekitoleko, Joyce Mpanga, Rhoda Kalema, and a few others has come to an end. These trailblazers set a high standard for integrity and dedication in public service.

In their place, a new generation of female politicians has emerged, leaving many of the women they represent cringing in embarrassment. The recent sanctions imposed by the UK on Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among, former minister for Karamoja Affairs Dr Maria Goretti Kitutu, and former minister of State for Karamoja Affairs Agnes Nandutu for their involvement in corruption have only intensified this sentiment.

Here is what some Ugandan women have to say about the current state of female political leadership:

Najjumba Jovia Ssali, 23, law student

“Do I think the new crop of female politicians have kept and fueled the agenda that led to the women’s representation movement? My answer is yes, they have sustained the far-fetched dream; however, it has now become a political card used by most, hence forgetting the core values.

I believe there is more that can be done by the women members of  parliament in Uganda. There is need to address and work on certain gender barriers that are never addressed. I am not disappointed with the regime because we are surely not moving backwards.”

(Name withheld on request), 28, lawyer

“[Rebecca] Kadaga’s regime and the women politicians during Idi Amin’s regime were good. Kadaga was motherly, and her regime often reflected on the question: ‘What will Uganda look like without me?’ She made foresighted decisions. But the people we have now...!”

Nambaziira Vivian, 29, trader

“Jennifer Musisi (former KCCA executive director) and Rebecca Kadaga (former speaker of parliament) ...those ladies really gave attention to the muntu wa wansi (people at the grassroots). They were not greedy; they were truthful and patriotic.

The impact of corrupt women officials on the women of Uganda, particularly young women, is profound and multifaceted. From perpetuating inequality and injustice to impeding access to essential services and eroding trust in institutions, the consequences are far-reaching and detrimental to the development and empowerment of women.”

Victoria Ssekitoleko, 75, activist, former cabinet minister, former diplomat

“In a democracy, the people get the leadership they elect and deserve, irrespective of gender. Is it still emancipation? Yes! Maybe slow, but ongoing. Women’s emancipation is moving at the same pace and style as the rest of Uganda!”

Jackline Atim, 37, teacher

“Please, can we stop pretending that those demanding accountability are homosexuals? It is now embarrassing.”

Dr Patricia Litho, board chair UMWA; assistant commissioner for communication, ministry of Energy

“Comparing different generations of women politicians is complex because each era faces unique challenges and opportunities. The earlier generation often had to break through significant barriers to even enter politics, paving the way for future generations.

As a women’s rights advocate, I believe in holding all individuals accountable for their actions, regardless of gender. While it’s concerning that all the sanctioned individuals in this case happen to be women, it is essential to focus on addressing corruption and promoting transparency, irrespective of the gender of those involved.

Women can and should be held to the same standards of integrity and accountability as men. It is crucial to avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes or narratives that could undermine efforts to achieve gender equality. Most importantly, women who have been suddenly thrust into leadership positions must be prepared and given proper orientation on leadership and accountability.”

Nantongo Peninah, 82, vendor (translated)

“I think the Speaker [Anita Annet Among] should stand firm on the [anti-homosexuality] law that she helped pass, and not dance to the White man’s fiddle. For the sake of our country and our culture, she should stand firm.”

Nakisozi Betty, 45, headteacher

“I have some personalities I feel have tried to represent us as women – Miria Matembe, Rebecca Kadaga, and Jane Ruth Acheng are some of them. They say, ‘What a man can do, a woman can do better.’ However, these women politicians have been influenced by male politicians who have become wolves and vultures. They observe how those men become billionaires in the blink of an eye! This makes women feel that if others can [steal], we [too] can, and this mentality spoils the integrity of motherhood in them.”

(Name withheld on request), 26, trader

“Most Ugandan politicians enter politics for government money [and not to serve]; that is why we still have and will always have corruption problems.”

Anita Rina, 24, journalist

“I am disappointed with the reputation they have showcased to the public. When it comes to Agnes Nandutu, she transitioned from being a public figure in the media industry that many women looked up to, to being accused of stealing iron sheets meant to help people in Karamoja. This is very unfair, given that many people in Uganda are suffering, starving, or even homeless.”

(Name withheld on request), 65, newspaper vendor (translated)

“I only care about my job because those politicians do not help or concern me. There is no woman politician I can say she did it for me because I suffer alone selling newspapers.”

Dr Emily Maractho,

“Women leaders must be held accountable like the others. It does not set a good example when women leaders are named in corruption
and demonstrate poor leadership. However, it is important to recognize that we are dealing with an all-time low in our governance indicators, with corruption featuring prominently.

This is a culture that implicates both men and women. For women, some of it is really uninspiring. The fact that only women were sanctioned speaks to the level of institutional malaise we are experiencing. This does not mean only women are corrupt. There is more to this, including the character of the individuals involved.”


0 #1 Lakwena 2024-05-22 14:58
In other words, since corruption means to break adulterate, pollute, rig, etc. a corrupt leader man/woman can only corrupt (mislead) others in wrongdoing.

That is how far, and for the last 38 years and counting, Ugandans have been misled into the current gutter of widespread unemployment and stinking poverty.

No wonder we are the most backward in the Region.

E.g., how corrupted (broken) are our: Public Schools, Hospitals, streets, byways, side-walks, highways, bridges, panya, etc.
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0 #2 Vincent 2024-05-22 16:08
I totally disagree with many views being portrayed in this debate, the former KCCA Director evicted and harshly punished poor food vendors in down Town, how can you say that those were good people, and it was rightly being done under the watch of the Speaker Of Parliament.
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0 #3 Akot 2024-05-22 16:31
Without NO to the tribalistic system & UNITY to stop rwandese Museveni, he'll rule for life with or without fake presidential election!

So, why will Ugandans go for next fake parliamentatary election to keep open the useless parliament that legalises Museveni's dictatorship, ownership of Uganda?

Why will 40 years of being slaves of the migrant not be long enough & Ugandans will ensure his continuity with fake elections?

Just NO to the tribalistic system & UNITY with just ONE National Leader, are all Ugandans need, if they want Museveni out & be FREE to form the kind of governance they want!

What is wrong with Ugandans?
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0 #4 kabayekka 2024-05-22 22:32
Indeed these corrupt women of leadership should get the fire they deserve over their corruption.

The Ganda tribespeople have a traditional saying from their knowledgeable ancient living. Ssengavuddemu ngazeemu. What it all means is that a dancer tries his or her luck to dance with a partner that has a hump on the back. It becomes difficult.

The dancer then tries another dance with a partner that has a big stomach. It becomes still difficult to dance properly. The Kingdom state of Buganda has tried many times to give all it has to assist Uganda to develop properly.

What has transpired has all been unprecedent and shocking economic mismanagement. The Kingdom state of Buganda continues to embark on existing with the corrupt and violent state of Uganda at its own peril!
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+2 #5 Apuuli Kibeteke 2024-05-23 10:08
iI had not imagined that Uganda has this many rank fools!

Why do Ugandans find it shocking when a civilized country
like the UK with properly functioning investigative bodies does a thorough investigation on Ugandan thieves and sanctions them, while the same Ugandans don't take any action on the thieves because they fear those thieves, and begin ranting that the thieves are women and therefore should be forgiven???

Any one with sound mind would know that its a moral duty to fight and deter thieves no matter where they are ! Sanctions are an efficient instrument to teach Ugandan thieves to stop stealing tax payers' money.

In fact even the children of those sanctioned individuals must feel the consequences of their parents' theft by being deported.
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0 #6 Apuuli Kibeteke 2024-05-23 10:21
Quoting Vincent:
I totally disagree with many views being portrayed in this debate, the former KCCA Director evicted and harshly punished poor food vendors in down Town, how can you say that those were good people, and it was rightly being done under the watch of the Speaker Of Parliament.

[quote name="Vincent"]

Mr Vincent in asmuch as i wasn't so pleased with Ms Jennifer Musisi's action of evicting the street vendors harshly, did you ever hear her name mentioned in the theft of loan money from Western tax payers, or money meant to buid a hospital?

Compare her with Lady Pinnetti who was paid to build a specialized hospital in Lubowa, which until now is not yet built and may never, and you can be arrested for going to inspect the site to see the progress there!
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0 #7 Lakwena 2024-05-24 17:51
And Apuuli Kibeteke,

How can we rule out that: the hundreds of billion of our sweat and blood tax money, handed over to Lady Pinnetti on a Silver Platter to build the Lubowa Hospital was funneled into building the Coffee Factory Complex in Ntungamu that "our Problem of Africa launched a few days ago?

In other words, Ugandans also should be reminded that: when the request for more money for the construction hit a snag, and there was stone-walling the MP from inspecting the construction site; scheming Madam Pinnetti started another syndicate to "ring-fence off " the sole purchase of premium Coffee for Value Addition.
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